School starts soon, and as it draws near, many students and parents are faced with the issue of bullying. Those
that are the targets of bullies often have feelings of powerless, inferiority and low self esteem. Parents are fearful for their children and want their children to enjoy their time in school and have the best learning environment to help them grow and learn. Yet, fears of bullying and actual bullying get in the way of this and the serious consequences of bullying have long term and last effects. There are no right answers, but a lot of research on this issue has helped develop a number of ways to help your child deal with bullying.
1. Encourage good social skills. It can be heartbreaking to realize that your child is on the outskirts of a social group. Sometimes it is because they are being singled out for being different, whether it is their clothes, their interests, their ethnic background, their size, an illness or disability, etc. Sometimes it is because they’re having trouble making good friends, making them a more vulnerable target. Actively helping your child develop their social skills can help address this last situation. Help foster positive, friendly behavior to make them more approachable. Teach them to compliment other children. Encourage them to display open body language like smiling, making good eye contact, while avoiding closed body language (i.e. crossed arms, averted eyes, scowling faces). Teach them to encourage other children and to offer help when needed. Also teach them to be an active listener in conversations with other kids, helping to create open dialogues, rather than just trying to run the show or clamming up. By teaching good social skills, children are more likely to develop strong friendships and less likely to be singled out.
2. Help develop confident body language. Body language communicates a lot on that primal level on which predatory people identify prey (i.e. easy victims). This is just as true for children as it is for adults. Children who display body language that makes them look small and shrinks away from others, like looking away, slouching, fidgeting, shuffle stepping, etc., are unwittingly putting out signals that bullies pick up on. They want an easy target, someone who won’t stand up for themselves or put up any kind of fight, and this type of body language communicates that. Try to encourage your child to keep their head up, shoulders back, take long, confident strides when they walk, making casual eye contact with people around them. It may help to take your child to a public place or to use characters on TV to help them see the differences for themselves.
3. Provide specific praise and encouragement. Children that have lower self-esteem need parental encouragement to help them build their confidence. Ambiguous praise like “You’re a good boy/girl,” or “Good job!” don’t help them see the value of their actions and behaviour to help them develop self-worth. Saying “I can see you’re working hard at soccer practices and it’s paying off because you’re really improving,” is more effective because they can link specific actions to the outcome, and are more likely to believe in themselves as a result. Simultaneously, it’s equally important to avoid hurtful words or deprecating labels when angry or disappointed with your child. Focus on correcting their actions by helping them to understand what they did wrong, rather than saying things like “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why don’t you use your brain?”
4. Give them opportunities to exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps build body confidence. It also releases endorphins that help your child manage stress. Being able to better manage stress will make your child feel more competent, give them mental resilience, and make them feel better about themselves overall. The increased self-confidence makes them a less likely target for bullies. Furthermore, it helps them cope better when they are faced with the stress of a bullying situation. Be sure to let them pick the activities they’re interested in rather than enforcing your own ideas. They’ll be more likely to keep doing it if it’s something they enjoy.
5. Help them develop a social network. Having at least one good friend can help insulate a child and preserve their self-confidence in the face of bullying. Encourage your child to find other children with similar interests and compatible personalities and reach out to them. Support their efforts by giving them opportunities to invite a potential friend over or out to enjoy activities they would both enjoy. If your child is really struggling to make friends at their school, bring them to outside groups or clubs to give them a chance to meet new kids, whether it’s a local youth group, hobby club or special interest group.
6. Build on their special interests. Everyone is happier and more confident when they’re doing something they love. This is just as true for children as it is for adults. If your child has a special interest, whether it’s music, art, drama, computers, or physical activities, encourage that interest as much as possible, as long as they’re enjoying it. As they build their skills, they build confidence. And because it makes them happy, they’ll have a more positive outlook. All of this makes children less likely victims. If they are targeted by a bully for whatever reason, they’ll also be less likely to be affected by their words.
7. Enroll your child in a self-defense class. The goal in this is not to teach your child to act out against a bully, but to teach them how to successfully escape or resist an attack. A good class will not only teach physical defense skills but also teach your child to be more aware and assertive in a potentially threatening situation, as well as verbal de-escalation techniques. It can also help raise your child’s confidence by helping them feel more capable of defending themselves should the need arise. It is, however, very important that you encourage your child to never let themselves be bated into a fight, to only use physical skills when they have no other choice, and if they do use force, to only use as much force as necessarily to get out of the situation.
The common theme with all these ways of helping your child deal with bullying is building their self-esteem. It is by far the most important factor in bully-proofing your child. Most children will be faced with bullying situations at some point, studies indicate that nearly 70% of children experience bullying in some form or another, even if they do have good social skills, a reliable social network, strong special interests, etc. If they have good self-esteem, the emotional resilience they get from it can carry them through any tough times they face, making them stronger more compassionate people as they grow up.
It is often asked by students, and asked more often by those not in the martial arts, what practical application does do long, uninteresting forms benefit a practitioner of the martial arts? You certainly will not perform a pattern (tul or kata) in a confrontation. But this does not mean that patterns are not important. They are the core within nearly all martial arts systems from gung-fu to karate to tang soo do to taekwondo. They are the basis for learning and practicing techniques that are taught in other applications, such as self defense and sparring. Tul or kata are full of varying techniques and applications from simple front kicks and punches to double knife hand strikes, jump kicks, and more. They contain just simple blocks and punches. Turn left, block the kick/punch coming from that guy, turn right, block the kick/punch coming from that guy and then hit him in return and so on and yada yada yada yawn... If this is what you think form training is then you have not been taught properly nor may understand the subtle nuances of what these forms are teaching.
All patterns hail from a series of movements that ancient foot fighters from China and Japan built and practiced in order to help train their bodies, ingrain their muscle memory and increase their knowledge of techniques in order to defend themselves as well as their families. Jujitsu, for example, used on the battlefield for close combat in situations where weapons were ineffective. In contrast to the neighboring nations of China and Okinawa whose martial arts were centered around striking techniques, Japanese hand to hand combat forms focused heavily upon throwing, immobilizing, joint-locks and choking as striking techniques were ineffective towards someone wearing armor on the battlefield. The original forms of jujutsu such as Takenouchi-ryū also extensively taught parrying and counterattacking long weapons such as swords or spears via a dagger or other small weapon.
In a true fight or in sparring you do not use all the moves taught in a tul or kata over and over until your opponent falls over. If you need more than two moves from any one tul or kata then you have not really learned the meaning or application of those moves within the tul or kata. In most patterns there is a repetition of certain moves, but they are not necessarily doing the same thing. In a sequence of moves that consist of a straight punch followed by a groin block followed by another straight punch, consider this:
Each move from a pattern has specific applications. After you execute one of these moves on an opponent, you should have a good idea of the position he is going to be in, where his head should be, where his torso should be, etc. If you execute the same move with your eyes shut in a pitch black cave, you should still know exactly what you have just done to him and his body position. Depending on the exact application used, you should know whether you need to follow up with something else, and depending on his (and your) body position you should know which pattern technique you should use next.
Even the simplest of patterns can be powerful. Take one simple move found in tae jo double outer forearm blocks can not only block against double knife hand block but it can be used to defend yourself from an attacker that has both hands on your body by bringing up your arms between his you can knock them off, perhaps grab them as they come off and pull him into a front kick to the groin, stomach or chest. Further, depending on how your engaged with the opponent it may turn into an arm break/elbow dislocation, a throw or even a self defense control tactic. This is all buried in the pattern. If successfully executed then this move is all you need to stop the fight.
Patterns help train the mind and muscle memory inevitably linking the two. With every single move that is executed in a pattern, you should be visualizing what you are doing on your opponent. As your knowledge grows you will have more options to visualize, even back in the basic form you learned when you were a white belt. This visualization is what helps to cement the knowledge of your techniques, you know exactly what you've just done and what position the opponent is in. Visualizing the techniques of the form assists with the state of mind, where you do not have to consciously think about your current or next move, it just flows.
Tae Kwon Do Patterns – 5 Reasons Every Martial Artist Should Know Their Patterns:
If you have done any traditional martial art, you have probably done something similar to Tae Kwon Do Tuls, or Karate Katas. Many martial artists underestimate and even dismiss the importance of these forms, but they would be greatly mistaken to do so. Every style has a different version of their forms, including Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and many others. These can be broken down to the different lineage of that specific art form. Different groups of Tae Kwon Do practice different patterns including Chon Ji, Palgwae, Songahm, and Tae Geuk. Currently the World Taekwondo Federation recognizes Tae Geuk as their style of Forms. However, no matter what style you practice, here are 5 reasons you NEED to know your Tae Kwon Do Tuls.
"Confused by thoughts,
we experience duality in life.
Unencumbered by ideas,
the enlightened see the one Reality.”
- Hui – Neng
Just as there is a night and there is a day, resting and awake, there are two sides to our human nature. There is the light, good side which contains all that is just, honorable, courageous, and good; then there is the dark, hidden side which contains all the various demons, which contain all that is potentially evil in all of us. Through out our lives these two sides are always vying for control and playing a large role in determining who we are and what we can become.
It is important that we realize this duality of our own nature. That we all have great capacity for good and evil; and that we must thoroughly investigate and test our beliefs and our faith. The strength of either of these sides can determine both our attitude and mood on any given day at any given moment.
Take for instance; one day you are on top of the world and things couldn't seem better. On this day you are more likely to go out of your way to do something good or generous for a stranger. People around you pick up on this. A stranger may base his own idea of who you are or what kind of person you are on their first impression of you. They may think, "What a great person he or she must be". You get up the very next day and you have slept wrong during the night, or have symptoms of coming down with a cold. You don't really feel so good and now things don't seem to be going your way. The darker side of you, or your "demon", becomes more prevalent in your personality or attitude. You become shorter with others, things that just yesterday wouldn't have bothered you at all, today totally infuriate you. After this first encounter with you a person may get an entirely different impression of who you are.
Here is where training in the martial arts can benefit not only your physically well-being but also your mental-spiritual well-being. From the earliest times the term "martial art" has meant the art of conflict prevention. The Budō, at least the modern version of the concept, has no external enemy, onlt the internal enemy, one's ego that bust be fought. It should be the goal of those that practice the martial arts to find a spiritual-mental balance between our dueling duality. We must realize and understand that we actually have both these sides of ourselves. This is the first step in beginning to find this balance.
These two-sides are easily represented in the yin and yang. One cannot live without the other. What we must do is be able to learn is to control the emotions of each of these sides. Setting your mind on what you want it to see does this. This is the concept of "proper thought". Stimulus that our mind picks up from our environment, that is repeated input, programs our minds. The subconscious mind builds itself around what it is most often exposed. Positive input or conditioning leads to a healthy outlook on life. Negative conditioning such as fear, worries, or hate can only lead to personal limitations and eventual self-destruction. One cannot grow with dark thoughts in their heart. Therefore, we can control this by proper thought and becoming at peace with ourselves while finding balance between the two sides.
The dark side of our mental-spiritual life has a very important role in our lives. We must first look again at the differences in our two sides. Like the yin and yang there cannot be one without the other. There would be no good if there were no bad, no up if there were no down, and so on. Our good side is made up of all that is passive, just, good, and pure, while our dark side is made up of all that is aggressive, tainted, revengeful and potentially evil. The key is being able to control this darker side, these demons. They are ingrained us we cannot separate them, if you were able to separate these two sides you would not be able to survive. Alone, the good or passive side of you would not even be able to protect you in most day-to-day confrontations. You would not be able to stand up for yourself. The good or pure side doesn't contain the aggressive traits that you would need. Your dark side contains these qualities. In this part of you lies the aggressiveness we need to stand up for what we believe. With both sides in balance, we are able to control them as easy as turning a light switch on or off. When confronted with danger we release our darker side to protect us and then is immediately placed under control when the threat of danger has subsided. The fear of demons is timeless, but once we begin to understand that our dark side is a vital part of our makeup, and that while under control, it will give us great power in times of need while also giving us balance within. However, it is not something that is learned, but something that with time and a better understanding of one's self will begin to emerge within a true warrior.
For a martial artist, or martial warrior, the perfect control of these two halves is what allows us to be in the "zone." For warriors it is more than just winning a game, it maybe that our very lives and the lives of our loved ones maybe at stake. We cannot make mistakes, for we understand that there may not be a second chance, a time out, a re-play. For martial warriors we must be able to let loose this dark-side, these demons in what is known as "Zanshin" (meaning roughly "remaining mind"or "relaxed alertness") Here we can actually feel the intent of our opponent and we are so alert to their movements that we instantly react to this, perceive it and ultimately crush it. As our skills develop and we begin to control the duality of our nature and find the perfect balance of peace within, we can use this balance to always be aware of any threats around us.
While attaining the status of black belt is a great achievement, becoming a Black Belt is more than just receiving a new rank.
As we grow as martial artists we each precede down our own paths towards the goals that we, our instructors and masters set forth before us. In each of these steps we become physically and mentally stronger and are able to perform our forms with more confidence, showcase our skills with weapons, self defense and much more. Each of these steps prepares us for achieving the rank of 1st dan. However, it is our duty during this time that we must begin to focus towards becoming a Black Belt. There are skills beyond those of physical and mental that we must also develop.
Many times the ideals of what it means to be a Black Belt becomes lost in the day-to-day practice of our skills. We lose sight that while we have achieved a minor mastery over our art; we have just begun the long road of becoming a true Black Belt.
So what is the meaning of a Black Belt? There are many trains of thought on this question, this is just one. To many it is the sign that one journey is over and another has begun. To others it is the gaining of knowledge of more advanced techniques, and still others it is the representation that they have become an expert.
I would suggest that in becoming a Black Belt we should further the ideals of the Samurai. Not the sword wielding, battle hardened warriors of the ancient past but the Samurai as it was first envisioned: "to Serve and Attend".
Think of "serving" as a black belt, not simply gaining it. This is important that as Black Belts we learn to serve those below as well as above us. In serving and attending the masters of the past gave up a great deal for their training: family, jobs, security, and more in order to accomplish their paths. I am not suggesting that we go to these extremes, but in today's world many only think of gaining for themselves. "I want this, I want that." We want to practice martial arts but we also want money, a nice car, fame, portable telephones and everything that everyone else has.
In serving as a black belt we should demonstrate the spirit and determination of the great masters of the past. We must realize that we have to make sacrifices in our own lives in order to pursue the ideals of the samurai, in order to better serve and attend.
It is through these thoughts and actions of service that we, as black belts, begin to come close to the spirit of true mastery, and truly becomes worthy of being called a Black Belt. When we have given up thoughts of ranks, belts, trophies, fame, and even mastery itself, we will have achieved what is really important in our training.
Be as the Samurai: be honorable, show benevolence, have integrity, be humble, be gentle, show self-control, have courage, demonstrate loyalty, be polite, be sincere. Care for others and put everyone before yourself. To study the martial arts is to study yourself. It has nothing to do with rank.
Let me leave you with this final thought. As the belt gets darker, turning from white to black and 1st dan to grandmaster achievement, and as you travel along your path as a black belt, the greater your service and attending should be to others. The greater the rank the more we need to remember we must serve the smallest white belt with as much respect and loyalty as much as we would the greatest master.